This was a wonderful bike race. A good 10-man breakaway with interesting people, guts, determination, and a nice, high mountain.
We had to reuse the 'peaked' mountain stage layout from yesterday, but today's was more accurate than yesterday's Col du TOURmalet. This stage started in a valley as low as 136 m above sea level, goes 110 km to the top of Col d'Aubisque at 1,709 m, and then 42 km downhill to Lourdes at 400 m.
A large breakaway (think rubber band that this time breaks) eventually settles in with 10 cyclists, gets free of the peloton. This is an interesting group as 4 of them have won stages in previous Tours, including Thor Hushovd of GRM who has won 8. The peloton just hangs together as stages with long downhill endings are really hard to win and they are saving their energy for another killer stage tomorrow. At the base of Col d’Aubisque Hushovd goes it alone. At the top it it is 6 that are still away from the peloton with the leaders being Jérémy Roy or FDJ, David Moncoutie of Cofides, and Thor Hushovd of Garmin - Cervélo.
From the top on they are flying. Roy and Moncoutie are French so they are hard to root against. Hushovd is the world champion and not a mountain climber, and he is hard to root against. Roy holds out until 2 km, but was eventually caught by Hushovd, in what we could call just an amazing bike race that pitted incredible riders against each other. Roy did a nice pat of his heart as he crossed the finish line (hence our heart in his name) that either said "I gave it all that I had" or "I'm heartbroken." Honestly, it was heartbreaking watching him cross the finish line.
We wanted to do the handrolling over the arrows representing riders. This is one amazing race and, as best we can on this project, we wanted to connect to each rider. A touch of yellow in the the main group was for Voeckler who was hanging onto the Yellow Jersey.